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In the novel 'Pride and Prejudice' Jane Austen weaves many social, economic and historical themes together with stories involving love and marriage. English society then was very conservative - people mostly stayed in the confines of their own class or gender and 'knew their place.' This was sometimes uncomfortable for the intelligent and able Miss Austen who played out her reflections in writing novels. She dramtizes the problems of the heroines as they try to fit in to the confines of society and marriage at the time. This was not easy - for example, Elizabeth's free spirit would not always have sat easily with Darcy's traditional outlook. Money also played a huge role in decisions regarding marriage, so love was not always the priority. Lands, money and investments were inextricably tied up by the union of one family with another - it must have been a nightmare!
Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" raises important moral issues concerned with the institution of marriage.
The most important one being how much money is necessary for a happy and successful marriage:"Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end and avarice begin?" (Ch.27)
In Ch.33 Col Fitzwilliam Darcy the younger son of an earl and obviously a very rich man hints to Elizabeth that he can't marry her: "Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marrywithout some attention to money." Was he beingprudent or avaricious in not marrying Elizabeth? Jane Austen leaves it to the readers to decide.
On the contrary, Darcy also a very rich man overlooks Elizabeth's impoverished financial status and goes out of the way to ensure that Wickham marries Lydia so that the Bennet's family honour is intact. His love for her compels him to virtually bribe Wickham his worst enemy into doing so. This clearly establishes that he is a noble and generous person and Elizabeth readily accepts his second marriage proposal in Ch.58.
Another important theme is the contrasting lifestyle of different social groups which is structurally central to a Jane Austen novel. In "Pride and Prejudice" the landed gentry represented by Darcy is contrasted with the newly rich trading class represented by Bingley.
But most importantly the harsh reality of a bleak future for a dependent unwed old woman is hinted at when Charlotte Lucas' brothers are relieved that Collins is going to marry their sister, for otherwise they would have to look after her in her old age.
'Romantic love' is the central theme which unites all the incidents and the characters in "Pride and Prejudice." But there is nothing 'romantic' about Jane Austen's treatment of 'romantic love' in the novel. 'Romantic love' is checked and controlled by the incomes and financial freedom of the partners involved. In this manner Jane Austen is able to blend 'romance' and 'realism.' For example, Lydia and Wickham who elope 'romantically' have to be rescued by the generosity of Darcy before they are married.
The restraining power of money on 'romantic love' is spelt out in the thematic statement found in Ch.27, "Where does discretion end, and avarice begin?", when Elizabeth replies to her anunt's query concerning Miss King the latest lover of Wickham. Her aunt is relieved to know that Elizabeth is not in love with Wickham who has virtually no income at all and is only employed temporarily in the Militia.
Another important consideration in love and marriage was the social classto which the characters belonged:
At that time, ownership of land and not money was the single most important criterion which determined the social status of an individual. Lady Catherine tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Elizabeth from marrying Darcy,because she is poorer than him but Elizabeth angrily retorts: "In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter: so far we are equal."(Ch.56).
In the book "Pride and Prejudice" attaining marriage with the person of appropriate measure is an important theme. The characters are either people of money ad comfort or those whose chances of marrying someone that he/she loves deems out of the question due to social class stratification. However, the people in the book continue to have love and want to be with the person they love. This creates problematic entanglements and crisis for the characters as they try to sort out relationships and to find ways of being worthy of being accepted in a class above them.
The story is about two sisters named Jane and Elizabeth and their complicated relationships with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy seem to be adversaries through-out the book, but in truth their conflicts only lead them to love. Jane falls passionately in love with Mr. Bingley who appears to be in love with her. However, he disappears; Only to reappear and reject her. She becomes depressed and heartbroken, but her love grows for the Colonel, a respectable gentleman older than her. She marries the Colonel having traded a passionate love for a comfort love. Elizabeth ahs given up the notion of marrying Mr. Darcy, but in the end everything works out. She marries the man she loves with all of her heart.
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